Critics of the Job Guarantee miss the mark badly … again

My blog post last week – On the path to MMT becoming mainstream (April 17, 2018) – discussed the way in which the language and concepts that have been developed by the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) authors are now permeating mainstream narratives and the media. While this has increased the pushback and hostility from both the Right and Left opposition to MMT, it is also a sign that the public understanding of the way in which the monetary system works and the policy options available to currency-issuing governments, is improving. Most recently, there is been a flurry in the US media discussing employment guarantees, which is a welcome relief from the previous saturation coverage of impoverished UBI ideas. It is fabulous, that at the policy level, the idea that the state can eliminate mass (involuntary) unemployment if it so chooses is becoming more acceptable. That’s down, in part, to the great work being done there by my MMT colleagues. There are also derivative public sector job creation proposals getting ‘airplay’ which I do not consider to be MMT-inspired nor are what I would call Job Guarantee initiatives, but which are still, to their credit, raising awareness of the need for the state to ensure there are sufficient jobs for all rather than dispatch citizens who are unable to find work to the unemployment queue. The push back is increasing and that is a sign that dissonance is being felt by the neoliberals who oppose the state taking responsibility for mass unemployment and using its fiscal capacity to render it a thing of the past. Many of the critics from the Left do not have the courage to come out and say they prefer the alternative to a Job Guarantee, which is entrenched unemployment. That leaves them carping away with no legs to stand on. The Right objections are venal as they always are – they want mass unemployment to persist to dampen wages growth and allow more real income to be captured by the top-end-of-town.
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    Posted in Job Guarantee | 15 Comments

    100 years ago today in France …

    Today is a public holiday (ANZAC Day) where we remember the efforts of our past generations who fought in wars. I am not very enamoured by the hype that surrounds these days – commercialisation reigns and the black/white nature of the narrative (we were good they were evil) obscures the reality of war and the political machinations that typically accompany it. In Australia’s case our involvement in several wars has been the product of unnecessary colonial master-servant type arrangements (us being the servant) and/or ridiculous alliances with the war mongering US. But the soldiers certainly did it tough and I have sympathy with that – and personal association with my grandparents and parents. Some history to follow as a reflection and some music that I was listening to on the plane as I winged North today.
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      Posted in Admin, Music | 9 Comments

      Bank of Japan’s QE strategy is failing

      On April 20, 1018, the IMF presented its – Asia and Pacfic Department Press Briefing – in conjunction with the release of the April 2018 World Economic Outlook and the upcoming (May 9, 2018) release of its Asia and Pacific Regional Economy Outlook. The Deputy Director of the Asia and Pacific Department, one Odd Per Brekk, told the audience that Japan should continue its Quantitative Easing (QE) program and maintain transparency in its purchase volumes so as to ensure the strategy to accelerate the inflation rate up to the 2 per cent target is achieved. Part of this strategy involves shifting inflationary expectations from their recent low levels. Critics of the program shriek that the asset base of the Bank of Japan is now approaching the nominal GDP level and given that a high proportion of those assets are comprised of Japanese Government Bonds, that reversing the strategy eventually will be difficult and risks involving the Bank is huge losses, which might render it insolvent. Insolvency has no application in the case of a central bank which can never go broke. Further, the Bank never needs to reverse the QE purchases. There is no relevance in the rising assets to GDP ratio. The problem is that QE will not achieve the desired end. The Bank has expanded its QE program significantly yet the inflation rate and inflationary expectations remain well below the 2 per cent target. They will eventually work out that the mainstream theory that predicted otherwise is erroneous.
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        Posted in Central banking, Japan | 22 Comments

        Forget European reform – the Germans have anyway

        For readers who follow my Twitter account, you will be aware that occasionally I have have brief interchanges with various Europhiles who have an abiding faith in the capacity of the Eurozone to reform itself along progressive lines to make it resilient against economic cycles and capable of advancing the prosperity of all the citizens who share the currency. They were particularly incensed when my latest book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World with Thomas Fazi was published in September last year. Our argument has always been that Germany is Germany and as such there is little hope that the basic flaws in the EMU will be resolved any time soon. Well in the last week, the Europhile bubble has been well and truly pricked by the decision of new German finance minister Scholz to retain the hard-line order-liberal Ludget Schuknecht as the chief economist in the Finance Ministry. Signal: nothing is going to change in the EMU that matters.
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          Posted in Eurozone | 6 Comments

          The Weekend Quiz – April 21-22, 2018 – answers and discussion

          Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 26 Comments

            The Weekend Quiz – April 21-22, 2018

            Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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              Posted in Saturday quiz | 5 Comments

              Australian labour market – weakens further in March 2018

              The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest – Labour Force, Australia, March 2018 – today which showed that the Australian labour market has weakened further in the first three months of 2018 and is decidely weaker when compared to 2017. Employment growth was virtually zero (4,900 net increase) in March 2018 and participation fell, suppressing the otherwise inevitable rise in unemployment, which would have accompanied the weak employment growth. Unemployment fell slightly but only because the participation rate fell. Had the participation rate been constant across the months, the unemployment rate would have been 5.7 per cent rather than the official rate for March 2017 of 5.5 per cent. Further, underemployment rose marginally as did the broad labour underutilisation rate, which stands at 14.3 per cent (nearly 1.9 million workers are either without work or do not have sufficient hours of work. The teenage labour market was slightly improved. Overall, my assessment is that the Australian labour market has weakened again in March and remains a considerable distance from full employment. There is a lot of slack remaining and defies the foolish calls in recent days from those demanding reductions in the fiscal deficit.
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                Posted in Labour Force | 2 Comments

                Progressive cause in Australia seriously undermined by … progressives

                I am travelling most of today with heavy commitments at the other end so only a short blog today with some great music to calm the soul. Yesterday, a group of high-profile, so-called progressives in Australia placed a paid-for advertisement in the leading daily newspapers as part of a new campaign for the government to increase taxes to get back into surplus so that (as their narrative goes) it can afford to maintain services for the needy. Yes, it was not the Right voices in our debate articulating this. The campaign is being led by a group that is often referred to as ‘left-leaning’ and calls itself the “most influential progressive think tank” in Australia. Modesty doesn’t exist it seems. But these sorts of descriptors are when the English language loses all meaning. The advertisement and subsequent follow-up interviews in the media yesterday by signatories and supporters of the “Letter” articulate a pure neoliberal line of deception about fiscal positions, the role of taxes and the virtuousness of fiscal surpluses. From my assessment, this headline-grabbing display of stupidity will set back the progressive debate in Australia even further. A total disgrace.
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                  Posted in Demise of the Left, Framing and Language, Friends like this, Music | 49 Comments

                  On the path to MMT becoming mainstream

                  Over the last few years, it is clear that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is achieving a higher profile and the attacks are starting to come thick and fast. I see these attacks as being a positive development because it demonstrates that recognition has been achieved and a threat to mainstream ideas is now perceived by those who desire to hang on to the status quo. Hostility and attack is a stage in the process of a new set of ideas becoming accepted, ultimately. Clearly, some new interventions never receive acceptance because they are proven to be flawed in one way or another. But I doubt the body of work that is now known as MMT will be discarded quite so easily given my assessment that is is coherent, logically consistent and grounded in a strong evidence base. As part of this evolution there are now lots of what I call ‘sort of’ contributions coming from mainstream commentators. One of the ways in which mainstreamers save face is to claim they ‘knew it all along’ and that the existing body of practice can easily accommodate what might be considered ‘nuances’ or ‘special cases’. We are seeing that more now, with the more progressive mainstream economists claiming there is nothing ‘new’ about MMT that it is just what they knew anyway. Even though that approach is disingenuous it is part of the evolution towards acceptance. People have positions to protect. These ‘sort of’ contributions demonstrate a sort of half-way mentality – a growing awareness of MMT but with a deep resistance to its implications. A good example is the UK Guardian’s editorial (April 15, 2018) – The Guardian view on QE: the economy needs more than a magic money tree.
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                    Posted in Debriefing 101, Economics, Fiscal Statements, Framing and Language, Job Guarantee, Reclaim the State | 32 Comments

                    The facts suggest Britain is not as reliant on EU as the Remain camp claim

                    I have been doing some analysis of British and European Trade patterns over the Post World War 2 period. They reveal some very interesting insights that are seemingly lost in the on-going war by Europhiles against Brexit. One of the recurring themes in the Brexit debate is the so-called importance of membership of the European Union to on-going prosperity of Britain through trade. What the data reveals is that British exports growth did not accelerate with accession to the EU in 1973 and after the introduction of the ‘Single Market’, British exports to the EU started to level off and then decline rather sharply. In other words, Britain has been diversifying its exports and is less reliant on the EU than it was say in the early 1990s. The data also shows that the creation of the Single Market hasn’t even boosted intra-EU or intra-Eurozone trade. Additionally, and laterally, the data suggests that the introduction of the euro has not expanded intra-EMU trade. The claims by the Euro-elites that it would were a major part of their justification for pushing through to the common currency. I consider this sort of evidence has been largely ignored by those in the Remain camp, who prefer to base their assertions on the highly questionable ‘forecasts’ coming from neoliberal-inspired ‘models’, which have so far demonstrated an appalling record of accordance with the facts. The data I have shown here doesn’t provide an open and shut case for Brexit. But it does show that the importance of EU membership to Britain’s prosperity is probably overstated and that Britain will prosper if its own policy settings are appropriate.
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                      Posted in Britain, UK Economy | 17 Comments